Updated: Apr 11, 2020
This seems to be the week when cabin fever has hit for many and I hear from friends who work in social care that the services under immense strain as stress levels rise across the country. There are healthy ways to get through stressful circumstances in a way that is more resilient not all of which do I include here. Key to coming through this stressful period is your willingness to keep managing your stress levels and your belief that you can do so. You can end unnecessary suffering by first accepting stress and anxiety as normal parts of life and reinforcing your power to cope. I want you to hear from me and know from me that you WILL get through this and on the other side you WILL be stronger. Let's get going with your skills.
Apply perspective changes
Look for the bigger picture in all of this. Try to see the problems as time-limited and separate rather than all as one thing.
Consider that the animals are not running around panicking about Coronavirus and that it is our daily diet of feasting on the news that makes it seem as if the problem is happening here, now and right this minute.
Take part in meditations that help you consider the bigger perspective.
Take part in mindfulness exercises that draw your attention and focus into different elements of present moment experience.
Focus on what you can control and write it down along with a plan
It doesn't help either stress or anxiety when we focus on what is not within our control. Many of the things that are happening are outside our control but what is in our control are things like limiting social media, improving our immunity and adhering to health and hygiene protocols.
Our attitude and expectations of ourselves are also in our hands. Make sure you build in real downtime to regulate your emotions which will help you think clearly about the options you have.
In a calm moment differentiate between worry that is unproductive and worries that is leading to fixing the problem in the form of problem-solving approaches. If you have never been introduced to problem-solving therapy get in touch and I can give you a couple of sessions of problem-solving. Then you always have two paths acceptance or problem solving and you can use a strategy such as worry deferral to deal with unproductive worries. Sit those worries on a chair and come back to worry later.
This is my number one piece of advice, except for those who have panic attacks and severe trauma
breathwork will be your friend here. Many clients have found they are anxious because of breathing incorrectly and not the other way round. They have also found like many others that focusing on the breath if only for a few moments builds their ability to respond instead of reacting. Watching the breath is a mindfulness technique where there is a substantial about of randomised control studies to support its usefulness is both anxiety and depression.
This is a huge area but you can start by learning to breathe correctly and understanding that correct breathing involves the back of your body too. Start with mindfully watching the breath and then move onto trying to breathe like this baby too. If you have Coronavirus or even if you don't this breathing technique is useful.
It can be a challenge to reach out for help but we absolutely need each other at these times. Perhaps you don't' want to reach out and talk about things but you could reach out to friends via skype, facetime and zoom and send each other funny videos or talk about the latest film. Social support is important in your arsenal of care, as we get depressed, stressed and anxious it can feel like we need to turn inwards but this is often just the NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) we are experiencing. I encourage you to have a list of key people you can turn to at this time.
Use online therapists. I know picking up a phone is anxiety-provoking but one route potentially leads to you working through your stress and anxiety and one route doesn't so pick up the phone. I am an entirely non-judgemental therapist, as most are, and having suffered with extreme anxiety in the past I know how difficult it can be to reach out and you can count on a warm welcome.
Keeping your mind occupied is very good when you are experiencing distress and you can't yet fix your problem. Playing games with others is great for stress reduction. Download some puzzle games or play this wonderful game here called Free Rice a quiz game that gives free rice to the World Food Organisation with every correct answer.
Search out Meaning
These are challenging times for meaning-making but making meaning out of suffering is one way to reduce its impact. If you are a fan of Philosophy try reading some of the existential philosophers or explore the Greek Stoics.
Ask yourself what this experience is teaching you and see the experience as a challenge you can grow and adapt yourself too.
I have found the following books to have been useful during times of adversity, there are many more but I will put these in another post;
How to Deal with Adversity by Christoper Hamilton
Again one that you probably hear often and yet misunderstand because I know I did. You dont have to feel grateful for everything and it isn't about denying what you are going through, it is more about looking for the chinks of light or shades of grey in a day and helping your mind to have more of a positivity bias. It is a science-backed way to overcome a very human negativity bias.
Even in the midst of great suffering the sun comes up and the birds sing, this was my lived experience on the day my Mother died and gratitude allowed me to find some sense in the nonsense. Look for anything you can and bring more beauty into your life in the form of plants, colourful veggies, music or anything else you find uplifting.
Affirmations and coping statements
We can give ourselves negative suggestions even in normal circumstances. Check your self chatter and make sure you are giving yourself realistic suggestions such as , "I have coped before and I will cope again" or "These experiences are building a new wall of strength". Find a coping statement or affirmation that makes sense for you and tell yourself it on a day to day basis realistically and meaningfully. If you get stuck with repeating these in a monotone then get in touch and see how I can help you believe your own self made powerful affirmations and coping statements to reduce coronavirus anxiety and stress.
Get into the present
We live most of our lives on autopilot, in doing mode and this means we also spend a great deal of time inhabiting abstract futures and digging up the past. Remind yourself the past is there for learning only and not to dwell and the future is there to plan the best possible course of action and then come back into the present moment.
The 5 things activity is the best one for acute anxiety and staying present but if it does not work for you then please get in touch and I can suggest many more activities. Repeat the activity until you feel more present.
This is just not optional and forms the foundation in a package of treatment for managing stress, anxiety and low self-esteem. Exercise can raise and lower your energy and it is key to physically feeling stronger, releasing tension, raising motivation and relaxing you. It is a great linchpin to support the other areas of your life.
Which exercise really rather depends on what you enjoy and for stress management what type of person you are. If you are a type A always on the go perfectionist you need to balance life out with restorative yoga and more mindful movement like Tai Chi. If you are sluggish and often finding it hard to get going active sports is better for you. Always aim to do strength training, relaxation training and cardio where possible. Particularly at the moment, all three types of activity are important.
Ask the fear what it needs from you
Fighting fear leads to more fear and fear of the fear which is a never-ending vicious circle. Lean into the fear and ask what it needs. Watch Tara Brach Healing the Fear Body for some inspiration on holding your own fear.
Seek out the help of a professional with online therapy
You never need to be alone in all of this, get some time to yourself and invest in your mental health. Many professionals may offer differently availability during this crisis. I am ready to support you with listening skills at any time day or night and I have multiple short term emergency therapy slots available where I can give you more coping skills for your anxiety and stress. I am full of ideas and ready to support you for as long as you need. You can call 07515392918 which is my personal mobile and book in a zoom session usually on the same day for listening skills and next day for coping skills Monday-Friday.
Quick coping skills for NHS Professionals undergoing Coronavirus Stress
These key interventions were put together by two people who took my course. They are available for free. If you like them and require further coaching I can offer sessions in how to master them for free and teach other interventions at a reduced fee for groups of NHS staff. https://www.nhsinmind.co.uk/
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You can send me a message and find out more about Hypnotherapy for stopping smoking in Anerley and online via Zoom or Skype. Anerley is that place no one seems to know about situated in South East London close to Crystal Palace, Beckenham, Penge and Dulwich. You can also get to know me a little better on the social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and occasionally Twitter.